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February 77AD

Lucius had been working with the vigiles for several months, but he had to admit he had never seen them hop to work so fast and with so much enthusiasm as when the news came in that the Venus was on fire. And it barely tampered their heroic spirit when they found out that the fire, thank the gods, was only near the Venus, but not actually in it. It also did not make them any less helpful to know that there was not a single man among the rank and file vigiles that would have been able to afford a girl or boy from the Venus. It was the principle, after all. And maybe a faint hope of reward.

The building next to the Venus caught from a cooking fire, as far as they could tell. The centurion on the scene immediately ordered the vigiles to start pulling down the burning parts of the roof, and sent some to cover the adjacent roof with water-soaked skins and blankets, to prevent the Venus from catching from the sparks. People stood by, watching the scene unfold; even some of the girls and the clients came out of the Venus, looking nervous.

Lucius was standing at the building's doorway, part of the bucket brigade that was passing down water from the nearby fountain. Smoke and sparks flew everywhere, and made him tear up, even with the scarf over his mouth and nose.

"Are we sure there is no one inside?..."

@Sara

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Vibia wasn't sure who the God of fire was, but she owed whomever it was a hefty sacrifice. She'd been in her room with the most dull man alive laying expectantly on her bed as she'd just begun to undress when shouts of 'FIRE!' had rang out through the Venus. The man had scarpered - clearly intent on saving his own skin before her own and left her confused, partially dressed but overwhelmingly relieved in her room. 

Moving through the brothel, beyond the smell of smoke that wafted in, nothing seemed on fire and the girls and boys were stood around awkwardly. Most of the clients had fled; those that remained sounded utterly unbothered by the prospect of a fiery doom judging by the grunts and moans of pleasure echoing down the corridor into the main room. "So...we're not on fire then?" She asked to some of the less dumbstruck amongst the group of assembled sex workers. They shook their  head in unison before one of the newer girls piped up; "Next door." 

Such drama for nothing then! Not that she was complaining, it had gotten the very dull, very demanding man from off of her bed. She sidled out through the room and to the door to join the crowds watching the vigiles with their silly little sticks and buckets try and put out the flames. She spotted him almost immediately and smiled to herself. She took a couple of paces forward and then glanced up to the burning building above him. It looked more smouldering now, than directly on fire. "If the Venus burns down you'll have to house us all. I wonder where I'd stay?" 

 

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Lucius heard the voice before he saw her, and almost snapped at her to stand back before he realized who she was. Instead, he grinned behind his scarf.

"This whole city will burn down and the Venus will still stand if it is up to our boys" he noted. "You should stand back though, we are not done pulling down the roof yet."

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She chuckled. That sounded about right, not that most men in his company would ever get the chance with women like herself or her colleagues. It was the principle though, undoubtedly. The Venus was as Roman as garum and needed protecting from their brave vigiles like Lucius. 

"Fine, fine. Find me after?" She held up her hands in defeat but there was a wicked smile on her face and she and took five or so paces back to join the throngs of people gathered outside. She tossed her long white blonde hair over one shoulder and shot a glower at a man gawking at her to her right until he took a pace or two back. She watched with compelled horror at the smouldering building and the squalling prostitutes coming to gawk at it.

 

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The roof was coming down, and the fire seemed contained, but the building would no doubt burn out. Once the bucket chain was working, Lucius ventured inside with some of the other vigiles to check. It was good they did: some people were still inside. Swearing loudly, Lucius managed to break down a door, and they carried the family to safety. They were covered in soot and badly coughing, with burns. Damn Venus. The centurion must have seen the look in his eyes when he emerged from the building, because he hurried to make sure everyone was fine.

The fire finally burned itself out, and the rest was put out with water and blankets. This part was less spectacular, and people slowly filtered back into the Venus.

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Vibia watched the scene unfolding with thinly disguised surprise. Maybe it was because she knew Lucius and enjoyed his company, but it certainly seemed more impressive than the usual display of apathy the vigiles projected. As the people were carried out she kept her eyes on the smoke billowing out of the building and then saw Lucius appear, dirtied and covered in soot. The passers-by who had stopped to stare merely stood idly by until it was clear the fire was out and the vigiles were packing up to leave. 

Most of the others drifted back into their place of employment but Vibia caught one by the wrist and gestured to the building with a wrinkle of her nose; "My room stinks of smoke. Tell domina I'm going for a drink and will be back once the slaves clear it out." The virtues of being a freedwoman and therefore able to set her own hours...the worker nodded and hurried back inside whilst Vibia lingered until she saw a familiar, lumbering figure. The familiar feline grin spread on her face and she started a slow-clap, "Bravo, hero Roscius...take your bow" 

 

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They had done their job. The vigiles packed up, many of them throwing longing glances towards the Venus, no doubt wishing, at least a little bit, that it would have caught fire, so that there would be heroics to be rewarded. Alas, there weren't, and the centurion ordered his men to head back to the barracks for the end of their patrol. Lucius pulled the scarf down around his neck, leaving a clear contrast between the upper and lower parts of his face. That last part had been rough, and he had a few injuries. Nothing major, but he told the centurion he'd go seek a medicus nearby anyway. It was party true, and wholly a etter excuse than flaunting his personal connection to the Venus in front of the other vigiles.

"Bravo, hero Roscius...take your bow" 

He turned as the crowd dispersed, frowning at Vibia. "I don't need to take a bow. My centurion needs a kick in the ass. Those people almost died for the Venus. No offense."

@Sara

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Vibia rolled her eyes and placed a hand on the alluringly feminine curve between her waist and her hips. "Why did they almost die for the Venus?" She frowned and tilted her head to the side, not understanding him. "It's not our fault that some dolt left their cooking fire on too long or placed a lamp next to a curtain." She rolled her eyes and took a few strides closer to him. 

She moved her fingers to the side of his face and made to try and move it side to side so she could examine him. "You look a state, there's a fountain-" Obviously there was, they'd used it a few moments ago with their buckets. She gestured with her head for him to follow her. She really probably should have grabbed a cloak - the Assyrian silk she was wearing left very little to the imagination. "You were very brave though." She offered over her shoulder with an impish smile.

 

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"Why did they almost die for the Venus? It's not our fault that some dolt left their cooking fire on too long or placed a lamp next to a curtain." 

"No, but everyone was so busy saving the Venus that no one checked inside." Lucius huffed. It had occurred to him before the centurion even thought about it. Which is why he needed to make centurion, as soon as possible. 

Vibia checked him over. Lucius looked at her a little sheepishly since it was definitely not her job.

"You look a state, there's a fountain- You were very brave though." 

"Part of the job" Lucius smirked. He did look awful. He had bruises, and a few scratches on his arm from breaking down a door. It wasn't bad but they did bleed. Vibia, on the other hand, was definitely not dressed for the public. "Did we scare off the customers, or what?"

@Sara

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She shrugged limply at his explanation. Funny that even in Rome the lives of a slave were worth more than the (presumably) free people next door...by virtue of the fact they were a good fuck. Sex really did the make the world go round, which shouldn't have been a novelty for her but was. 

"And isn't it just such a masculine job," She grinned with her beaming smile and sat down on the edge of the fountain, folding her legs over to flash her thigh. "Most of them. I have some time to spend with my brave vigile." She gave him a smug look, "How long has it been?" She tipped her head to the side, "Since you last darkened my door?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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Vibia seemed to be enjoying this. Maybe was an entertaining moment in her day, or maybe she just took pleasure in seeing how far Lucius had fallen since their last encounter. Either way, she was not going anywhere. Lucius joined her at the fountain.

"Most of them. I have some time to spend with my brave vigile. How long has it been? Since you last darkened my door?" 

Lucius unceremoniously dunked his head in the fountain. Gods, it felt good. He came up, shaking water out of his hair. By the time it ran down his neck, it colored his tunica grey.

"Months?" He ventured "Not since I got adopted."

@Sara

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Vibia shrieked. Actually shrieked as he pulled his head up and proceeded to spray water across a wide arc, including all over her. She kicked out with her leg at his own shin and watched with annoyance as rivulets of water worked its way down the skin of her arms and chest and face. "Now I remember why I haven't seen you...no manners in you equites." She scoffed and moved her hand into the water before flicking drops back at him. 

"Ah yes," She said with a grin and a shake of her head. She remembered it clearly but it was good to needle him. "You were complaining of women problems and running off to leave me to fight fires..." She glanced up at the still smouldering building down the street, "You've got the fires down to a pat." She grinned. "You're enjoying it?" Her voice was more sincere now and she looked genuinely earnest.

 

TAG: @Chevi

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Lucius laughed at her shriek. She kicked at him and sprayed him with more water. He didn't mind. He was already all dirty anyway, water was the least of his problems. He sat down on the edge of the fountain.

"Now I remember why I haven't seen you...no manners in you equites."

"Please I had no manners as a patrician either."

"Ah yes. You were complaining of women problems and running off to leave me to fight fires... You've got the fires down to a pat. You're enjoying it?" 

"Very much so." he admitted cheerfully, checking his arm for injuries. "Although ask me again tomorrow morning..."

@Sara

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She smiled at him, sensing he genuinely meant it although her face fell into a wince as she watched him eyeing his arm. She sighed dramatically and shifted to turn her body towards him, holding out her hands expectantly for him to place his arm into them. "Let me see, before you fall down of blood loss." She wasn't a medicus but had experience of cuts and grazes and bruises from her time as a slave, and now in a brothel. No matter how high-class an establishment was, you'd always get bad apples for clients. 

"It's good to see you Lucius." She offered a small, genuine smile and then almost immediately reverted back to the Vibia persona. "But I should loathe you really, leaving me all alone in the Venus. Tsk. You've not been able to scrape my fee together?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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"Let me see, before you fall down of blood loss." 

Lucius chuckled, holding out his arm for her. The amusing aspect of Vibia, out of all people, playing nurse, was not lost on him. Their eyes met, and she dropped her mask for a moment. Almost like she was a friend.

"It's good to see you Lucius."

"You too."

"But I should loathe you really, leaving me all alone in the Venus. Tsk. You've not been able to scrape my fee together?" 

"Do I look like I get paid in gold?" he quirked an eyebrow. "If the others found out I'm even talking to you I'd never hear the end of it."

@Sara

 

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"You don't look like a pauper," She grinned, "But maybe it's that good Patrician breeding? All those strong, handsome features..." Her fingers ran over the scrape on his arm and she arched a brow up at him before moving a hand to scoop up some fresh water from the fountain, gently pouring it over the wound. 

"Never hear the end of it? Why would you want to hear the end of it? Don't you want them to know you have friends like me?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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Lucius smirked as she ran her fingers along his jaw. He had never been a true regular, but he knew her touch well. He just hoped she knew he really had no coin to spend. At all.

"Never hear the end of it? Why would you want to hear the end of it? Don't you want them to know you have friends like me?" 

She splashed water on his wounds and he winced. Both at the pain and the question.

"I am one of them now. And it is hard, making them actually trust the patrician boy who came out to play with the freedmen." he sighed "They are all good men. And it makes sense they are suspicious of me. But it is going to take a lot of work to earn their trust."

@Sara

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Her fingers worked to clean out the grime from the wound, cupping her hands repeatedly into the water and cleaning the dirt and the soot from his skin. She listened to him with understanding and glanced up occasionally as he spoke. 

"Ah, so you're saying you need to go for one of the spindly little women with no teeth at the Elysium." She smirked and tossed her shining wave of hair over her shoulder again from where it fell down to brush his arm. She realised she couldn't quite keep the jokes up though as his tone grew more serious. "Would you like some advice, sweet Lucius?" She glanced up at him again as her fingers stilled against the graze on his arm, "From the opposite of your situation? A lowly freedwoman playing with Patricians?" 

 

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"Ah, so you're saying you need to go for one of the spindly little women with no teeth at the Elysium."

No, I am going for a spindly patrician girl who also likes to kick me.

She worked on cleaning his arm and he let her. It was nice, to be cared for like that. He knew that flirtation was second nature to Vibia, but for now, he was not even a potential client. "I am not going for anyone."

"Would you like some advice, sweet Lucius? From the opposite of your situation? A lowly freedwoman playing with Patricians?" 

"From you? Always" he grinned. "You have been right before. I'm listening."

@Sara

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"Don't sound so horrified," She grinned, "I'm always right. Although..." She narrowed her eyes on his face, pursing her lips, "You'll have to remind me what I was right about this time...all of my victories tend to blur into one." 

She finished tending the wound but didn't move her fingers from his arm, instead, moving down to his hands to examine the back and front as she talked, looking for invisible wounds. "People are people. Some of the best conversationalists I know were the slaves in our house." She shrugged, "And some of the simplest are  the senators in my bed. So I suppose, what I'm trying to say is..." She grinned at him, "Don't be so self-absorbed. Nobody cares if you're a patrician or not. Just...don't rub it in people's faces." Which was advice she really should take, because she rubbed her own status into the faces of plenty of slaves.

 

TAG: @Chevi

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"Don't sound so horrified. I'm always right. Although... You'll have to remind me what I was right about this time...all of my victories tend to blur into one." 

Lucius did not mind Vibia being right. He did mind her being right about the one particular thing - telling him he liked Ovinia before he realized it himself. He would have been better off if he had never realized it at all. Vibia kept working on his arm and hands. His palm was growing used to the hard work, and his kunckles were always scraped.

"People are people. Some of the best conversationalists I know were the slaves in our house. And some of the simplest are  the senators in my bed. So I suppose, what I'm trying to say is... Don't be so self-absorbed. Nobody cares if you're a patrician or not. Just...don't rub it in people's faces." 

"That's... the exact opposite of what you just said earlier." Lucius pointed out with a smirk. "And I know people are people. That was... kind of the whole point of this job." Otherwise he would have kept his rank and social standing. "Turns out, not all people think patricians are people, though. But I am working on it."

@Sara

 

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"I'm a woman of contradictions, Lucius." She grinned with a shake of her head, her jewellery jangling as she did. "But Patricians are people...as long as they don't treat us poor, lowly freepeople as their personal bodyslaves. Which I'm sure you don't do." She shrugged and then glanced back down at his hands, "And of course, when you're a freedman...or woman, you've been enslaved. That tends to colour your opinion of people of your class...or old class." She shrugged. 

With a sigh, she finally let go of his arm and then gestured with a jerk of her head. "Drink? I'm not going back to the Venus until the lovely slaves get the smell of burning wood from my sheets. I have time." she narrowed her vivid blue eyes on him, "And I want to know what I was right about." 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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"But Patricians are people...as long as they don't treat us poor, lowly freepeople as their personal bodyslaves. Which I'm sure you don't do. And of course, when you're a freedman...or woman, you've been enslaved. That tends to colour your opinion of people of your class...or old class." 

Lucius nodded. That was the whole deal with Titus; he had been a slave, and against his better judgment he was still antsy around Lucius, although they were making progress. And not even patricians knew how to deal with him giving up his rank to do... this. Vibia finished washing his arm and hands.

"Drink? I'm not going back to the Venus until the lovely slaves get the smell of burning wood from my sheets. I have time. And I want to know what I was right about." 

Lucius nodded to the drink and stood, but laughed at her question.

"Oh, I'm not going to tell you that. You have enough confidence as it is, and I'd never live it down." Plus, it was dangerous territory, and he did not want to give Ovinia yet another reason to want to murder him. "But I'll accept the invitation. Although I am surprised at you giving away your time for free."

@Sara

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"You see, you're just intriguing me now." She gave an impish smile as she pushed herself off of the fountain, hips swaying as she did. A few men stopped to gawk. "And who said it's for free? I'm not going to buy you your wine." She probably had more gold in her chests than he had in his, but that wasn't the point.

A wolf whistle came from the direction of one of the balconies of an insula across the way and Vibia smirked, turning to Lucius. "Wait here - as much as I'd like to toy with all the men of Rome, I'm not convinced Assyrian silk is the best choice." And with that command she flitted back into the smoke filled Venus. Nobody really paid her much attention as she slipped up to her room. She rifled through a box until she pulled out a plain enough tunica, cut low but not indecently so. She pulled off the silk and pulled the other one over her head. She also tucked a coin purse onto her belt as she fastened it. By the time she had descended back onto the street, most of the crowds had dispersed. She gave him a smile. "Know anywhere decent?" 

 

TAG: @Chevi

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Posted (edited)

"You see, you're just intriguing me now. And who said it's for free? I'm not going to buy you your wine." 

Lucius grinned, watching Vibia flit back to the Venus, no doubt for a costume change. She was known for her work, but that didn't mean she had to walk around in silk all the time. He cleaned up a little more before she reappeared, more modestly dressed.

"Know anywhere decent?" 

"No" Lucius grinned at her "But I know a place with god enough wine. Come on."

He headed down the street, away from the Venus at a comfortable pace. The popina he had in mind had a friendly enough owner, and it wasn't usually crowded this time of the day. "So, how have you been since we last met?"

@Sara

Edited by Chevi
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